Many businesses, both large and small, understand the need for marketing. Many don’t understand the difference between communications and strategy. Too often, when asked about their marketing strategy, large corporations and small businesses focus their attention on communications. That is necessary, but that’s only half of the equation. The most important part is the strategy.
Many businesses see strategy as multiple objectives. For example, HP’s CEO, Leo Apotheker described their marketing strategy as follows:
• Invest more in software, networking and storage
• Emphasize systems that combine these functions
• Focus on cloud computing
• Build a business helping companies build cloud-computing setups
• Increase sales to telecom firms
This is very typical. It is “increase sales by expanding the brand in all directions”. In other words, let’s take a shot gun approach and see what we hit. This is all well and good, but have nothing really to do with strategy. Here’s a dictionary definition of Strategy: “The science of planning and directing large-scale military operations, specifically maneuvering forces into the most advantageous position prior to engagement with the enemy.” And what is the most advantageous position? According to Carl von Clausewitz, the world’s most-famous military strategist, “Keep the forces concentrated in an overpowering mass. The fundamental idea always to be aimed at before all and as far as possible.” Too many marketers scatter their objectives and call it a campaign. That is totally opposite of what a campaign is. A campaign is a concentration of forces and efforts to accomplish one objective. Now, there are many tactics and benchmark objectives that go into a campaign, but it is the singularity of the end result that makes it a campaign. Almost every military strategist recommends “concentration of forces,” while almost every business strategist recommends “scatteration of forces.”
It is interesting that this “old school” approach is what is most effective in this new media world. Apple has been able to keep their strategy clear, singular and simple. They marshal all of their efforts in specific campaigns, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad. They don’t often take on several products or services and market them all at once, hoping one will stick. You may disagree with this, but who should decide a) What products should be offered? b) What name should they be called? c) What distribution channels should be go through? Answer: marketing. All of these are marketing questions, not MBA questions. Unfortunately, it’s the MBA management team that is in control of these questions. That is why many companies don’t really have a true marketing strategy and what they call a campaign is really sending out scouting forces in all directions hoping they will get lucky.
So, if you want to get the most out of your marketing dollars and really establish what your brand means, have a singular strategy and let marketing people make the critical decisions and lead the campaign. Your balance sheet will thank you.